Sunday September 10, 2023 The Gospel of John Week 28 – John 7:53 – 8:11 “Drawing A Picture of the Gospel”

Sunday – September 10, 2023

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 10, 2023

John 8:12
Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles. At that same feast, the Jews performed a ceremony where they lit four huge candelabras or torches in the Court of the Women in the temple, commemorating the fact that the Lord had been a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night to protect and guide Israel in their wilderness wanderings for 40 years. That cloud appeared on the day when Israel left Egypt, standing as a barrier between them and Pharaoh’s armies on the night before they crossed the Red Sea. Then as it went with them in that wilderness, it was a graphic symbol of the fact that the Lord God was with His people.

In the Old Testament, the Jews recognized the pillar and the cloud as the Lord (Exodus 13 & 14). Furthermore, light is often used as a metaphor for God. Psalm 27:1 proclaims, “The Lord is my light and my salvation ….” In a prophecy about Jesus Christ, Isaiah 9:2 predicts, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” In Isaiah 42:6, the Lord tells His Servant, the Messiah, that He has appointed Him to be “a light to the nations” (or, “world,” in John 8:12).

As I consider Jesus as the “Light of the world,” I am reminded of the conversion of Saul as described three times in the Book of Acts. Saul, who would become Paul, was the personification of the unbelieving Jews we find in John’. He thought he was serving God as he persecuted Christians, just as the Pharisees thought they were serving God by persecuting Jesus. Paul was saved when our Lord intercepted him on a mission to arrest more Christians. Saul was blinded by the “light” of the glory of the resurrected Jesus, whom he persecuted as he persecuted the church of our Lord. That “light” blinded Saul for three days. It was after this three-day period of blindness that Ananias came to him with the gospel, and Saul was saved.

Our text reminds us that while Saul’s conversion was extraordinary in some ways, it is typical in others. We, like Paul, are blinded by our own sin. We oppose God, we oppose Jesus Christ, we oppose the people of God because we do not like the light; we do not want the light. And all the while we are deceived into believing that we’re doing the right thing. If it were not for God’s “enlightening” us, for His seeking us out, for Him opening our blind eyes, we would never see. If you have come to see Jesus as your Savior, remember that it was He who found you, He who gave sight to your spiritually blind eyes.

Sunday July 16, 2023 The Gospel of John Week 23 – John 6:15-21 “Knowing the Lord for Who He Is”

Sunday – July 16, 2023

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Word On Worship – Sunday – July 16, 2023

John 6:15
So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Many people come to Christ in the hopes that He will make them happy. They struggle with personal problems and they hear that Jesus can help, so they trust in Him to gain the peace and joy that they long for but has always eluded them. Whether they feel unfulfilled with life, find themselves in personal crisis or are just having problems with their kids- they have been told Christ can help, so they decided to “try Christ.” Whatever the need, they want Christ to make them happy.

But after they come to Christ, they find that the problems get worse, not better. Things aren’t exactly like the salesman—I mean evangelist—promised! They feel like when you sign up for some offer, only to find that it was a bait and switch. If you had known what you were in for, you never would have signed up. So, why do you follow Jesus? Is it so that you can use Him to make you happy? Or, is it because He is the sovereign Lord of creation, who demands your submission and loyalty, even if His ways are not what you expected?

John wrote his Gospel, and especially the miracles or signs that Jesus did (20:31), “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” However, many of us come to Christ with incorrect expectations. We want to believe because if we do, Jesus will make it all better and I will be happy. It’s important that we believe in Jesus for the right reasons and that we grow to know Him as He is, not as we might wish for Him to be.

As I’ve often said, the crucial question in life to answer is Jesus’ question to the disciples (Matt. 16:15), “But who do you say that I am?” If Jesus is who He claimed to be and who the Scriptures show Him to be, then we must follow Him as Savior and Lord, even if it results in being tortured and killed. The Bible is quite clear that many godly saints have suffered terribly because of their faith. In fact, Paul promises (2 Tim. 3:12), “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The main reason for following Christ is not because He can make you happy—although He can, even in your suffering—but because He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). He is the eternal Son of God, sent from the Father to provide the only way to heaven through His death and resurrection.

Sunday July 2, 2023 The Gospel of John Week 22 – John 6:1-15 “Look Who Is Coming to Dinner”

Sunday – July 2, 2023

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Word On Worship – Sunday – July 2, 2023

John 6:5-6
Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?”  This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do.

When I began as a pastor 24 years ago, I was extremely unsure about whether I could do the job. I didn’t know whether I could come up with new sermons week after week without running dry. I wasn’t sure about whether I could adequately shepherd God’s flock or fulfill the other demands of the position. So, I told the Lord, “I’ll try it for a while and see where I’m at.” Although many weeks I still feel so overwhelmed with inadequacy that I think about quitting, by God’s grace alone, I’m still serving as a pastor.

No text in the New Testament has helped me do what I do as much as the story of Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000. Aside from the resurrection of our Lord, the feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle found in all four of the Gospels. It’s not just a literal miracle witnessed by thousands of people. It’s also a parable with many lessons about the all-sufficiency of Jesus Christ to meet the vast needs of the world through His inadequate disciples. Although they were completely inadequate to meet the needs of this hungry crowd, they gave the little that they had to the Lord, who blessed it and multiplied it so that they could distribute it to the people. That’s been my experience for nearly a quarter of century.

The lesson I have learned through this is  that Jesus commands us to do more than we are (humanly) able, because He is the One who enables us to do what He commands. The disciples are inclined to shirk their responsibility to feed these folks because the task is “impossible.” Jesus does not let them off the hook, but rather lays the responsibility for feeding the 5,000 at their feet. What the disciples are not able to do on their own, they accomplish by the power of Jesus Christ. And not only are they able to feed this crowd so that all are filled, they even end up with a surplus.

God ministers through our weakness. He does not select “strong” people so that He can use their strengths; He chooses weak people so that He can demonstrate His power through their weakness (1 Corinthians 1:18–2:5). He gives us tasks which we do not have the strength to do ourselves, because He gives us His strength to carry them out. We are to be about this task, in whatever ways God puts before us. Let us see the magnitude of the mission as the occasion for faith, obedience, and prayers, and not as an excuse for apathy and idleness.

Sunday May 28, 2023 The Gospel of John Week 19 – John 5:1-18

Sunday – May 28, 2023

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 28, 2023

John 5:12-13
So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?” The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.

I have always been puzzled by the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda. After all, the alleged “miraculous healings” at the pool of Bethesda are not like any other healing I have found in the Bible. Have you ever read of any such miracle in the Bible, where an angel somehow energizes the waters, and the first person into the water is healed? Where do we ever read of angels being involved with healings? Water is often used in healings, but such miracles are always specific—not general. Naaman was healed of his leprosy when he obeyed Elisha’s instructions to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River in 2 Kings 5.

People are healed individually and specifically, not in some kind of “whoever can get there first” manner. And would God really heal someone simply because they can push and shove and their way into the pool first? Why does Jesus ask this man if he wishes to get well? And why does the man not give a simple “Yes” in response? Instead, the man blames everyone else for failing to provide him with a healing, since no one will help him into the pool so others beat him to it. Unlike the woman at the well in chapter 4, or even Nicodemus in chapter 3, this man seems to have no spiritual insight, no theological content, and definitely no faith.

This passage is a reminder of the “weakness” of signs and wonders compared to the power of God’s Word. Signs and wonders do not necessarily produce faith, and the faith they do produce is second-class. Here, the miracle Jesus performs does not even produce faith in the one who is healed. The paralytic betrays our Lord by identifying Him to the authorities. Signs and wonders are something like street drugs or alcohol—they may produce a spectacular effect at the beginning, but as time goes on, you need more and more to produce the desired effect. Signs and wonders have a diminishing return. They are not wrong, John describes them in this Gospel to convince his readers that Jesus is the Messiah, so that men and women might believe in His name and obtain the gift of eternal life.

While signs seem to produce fewer and fewer saints, the word of the Lord is mighty. Jesus does not need the angel-troubled waters of the pool of Bethesda to heal the paralytic. He does not even need the faith of this disabled man. All that is required is His word. At His command, the man who has been disabled for 38 years gets up and walks—not only walks, but carries his bed with him. He who is the Word, the Logos, who created the world with a word, is the One who heals with but a word. We should thus heed His words, for they are spirit and life (John 6:63).

Sunday May 21, 2023 The Gospel of John Week 18 – John 4:43-54 “Taking Jesus at His Word”

Sunday – May 21, 2023

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 21, 2023

John 4:46-47
And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to Him and begged Him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.”

We’ve all heard stories of people who had “foxhole” conversions. The man on the front lines of battle, with bullets were flying all around him. In his panic, he flashed back to his godly mother, who prays for him every day. He cried out, “God, get me out of here safely and I will follow You the rest of my life!” The real test of that man’s faith is not how sincere he may have been in crying out to God in the heat of the battle. The real test of his faith is rather measured by what he does when the pressure is off. Will he go deeper and develop genuine faith in the person of Christ that is not just a response to his immediate need?

Here, Jesus tells the royal official, “Go home; your son will live.” The official does not get what he asks for; Jesus does not volunteer to return to Capernaum with him. Nevertheless, the man believes Jesus and leaves Him to return home. Exactly what does he believe? I think that he trusts Jesus, but not knowing exactly what He meant. He understands that his son has not yet died, and that he will not die. As he makes his way home, his mind must be racing as he considers all the possibilities. While still on his way, he is met by his servants, who have news and do not want their master to agonize any longer than necessary. The danger is past and the child will live. You can almost see the face of this father, the look of relief and joy that comes over him.

Let me point out a very important principle: God often brings adversity into our lives—adversity beyond our ability to handle—so that we must come to Him as our only hope. I doubt very much that this royal official would have traveled 20 miles to beg Jesus to come heal his son if his son had tennis elbow. This man is desperate, helpless and hopeless, apart from Jesus Christ. Jesus said it: He came to heal the sick, not to minister to those who are healthy. Certainly, there are those who came to argue with Jesus, who were trying to make themselves look good and Him look bad. But most of those who come to Jesus in the Gospels are those who desperately are hurting and helpless.

Are you hurting? Do you feel helpless, unable to cope with what you are facing? This could be the gracious hand of God, drawing you to Himself for mercy and grace in your time of need. Let’s face it; we do not seek God when things are going well for us. We tend to turn to God only in our weakness, in our need, in our despair. If your life is like this, it may be the gracious hand of God, compelling you to come to Him in faith. Take Him at His word. Come to Him who is the solution to your every need.

Sunday May 7, 2023 The Gospel of John Week 17 – John 4:27-42 “Motivation and Mission”

Sunday – May 7, 2023

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 7, 2023

John 4:40-42
So when the Samaritans came to him, they started asking him to stay with them. He stayed there two days, and because of His word many more believed. They said to the woman, “No longer do we believe because of your words, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this one really is the Savior of the world.”

If you’re anything like me, you struggle at being an effective witness for Jesus Christ. I’ve prayed about it for decades, I’ve read many books, gone to different training seminars, and even taken a seminary class in evangelism, but still I often fail at being a good witness. An hour or two after an opportunity, I think, “I should have said such and such,” but I didn’t think of it at the time. Our text gives us some help in being the kind of witness that God uses from an unlikely source: A woman who is a brand new convert, who is still living with a man outside of marriage, who knows almost no sound doctrine, and who has not had a training course in how to share her faith. Yet she effectively evangelizes her entire village for Christ!

Our Lord fulfilled His mission, but He has given us the task of proclaiming the gospel to a lost world before He returns. The time is short, and a team of workers is required to complete the task. It would seem that a different group of individuals had sown the fields than those who were to reap the harvest. I believe this is still true today. Where wheat is grown in the United States today, the farmers may plant their own crops, but the time to harvest is so short that a caravan of professional harvesters is often employed. Trucks and combines are brought in, and the fields are harvested within hours.

The disciples have no idea that a great “harvest” is about to take place, and that they are the harvesters. They have been so preoccupied with lunch, while others have been at work sowing the gospel. In the past, the prophets had sown the seed through their words and the Scriptures. Men like John the Baptist had also sown the seed of the gospel. And this very day the Samaritan woman has gone into the town, bearing testimony that Jesus is at the well, and that He has “told her all she had done.” She did the sowing; now it is time for Jesus and His disciples to reap. No wonder there is no time for lunch, the “fields are already white for harvest.”

Look at the kind of faith these Samaritans possess, as reflected by their words. At first they took the word of the Samaritan woman, but having heard Jesus for themselves, they no longer relied on her testimony, but on what they heard Jesus say. We are told of no miracles (other than Jesus letting this woman know that He knew all about her life of sin), or signs being performed by our Lord in Samaria. These Samaritans have a vastly superior faith than mere “sign faith.” Their faith is “Word faith,” faith in Jesus Christ, based upon His own words. They came to trust in Jesus as the Messiah, as the “Savior of the world.”

Sunday April 30, 2023 The Gospel of John Week 16 – John 4:23-24 “How Evangelism of the Gentiles Began”

Sunday – April 30, 2023

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 30, 2023

John 4:23-24

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

Jesus’ words about worship to this unnamed Samaritan woman occur in the context of His witness to bring this woman to saving faith. We might not think that witnessing is the right context to talk about the priority of worship. But Jesus takes her implicit question (4:20) about whether Samaritan worship or Jewish worship is correct and uses it to zero in on the aim of the gospel: to turn sinners into true worshippers of God.

Jesus tells this woman that a significant transition is about to take place. Unbelievers often mistakenly think that if they go through the proper externals of “worship,” then things are okay between them and God. But they haven’t dealt with God on the heart level. They haven’t repented of their sins of thought, word, and deed. Jesus tells the Samaritan woman that it’s not the externals that matter as much as the internal when it comes to worship.

There are also Christians who are sincere, but their worship is man-centered. Sometimes it’s patterned more after the entertainment world than after the Bible. It draws attention to the performers, but not to the Lord. Or, on the other end of the Christian spectrum, some go through ancient liturgies week after week, but their hearts are not in submission to God. They mistakenly think that because they went through the rituals, they’re good for another week. They’re like the Jewish leaders of whom Jesus said (Matt. 15:8, citing Isaiah 29:13), “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.”

Why do you come to church? If your focus is to get something out of the church service, you’ve got it wrong. Your focus should be to give praise and honor and thanks with all the saints to the God who gave His Son for you. Soren Kierkegaard pointed out that often a congregation views itself as an audience, watching the worship leaders and the pastor give their presentation or performance. But the truth is that the congregation is actually the cast of actors, with the worship leaders and the pastor acting as prompters, giving cues from the wings. The real audience is God and the entire presentation is offered to Him, for His pleasure and glory. So the issue when you come to church is not, “Did I get anything out of it?” but, “Did I give God the heartfelt praise and thanks and glory that He deserves?” That’s our aim as a church.

Sunday April 23, 2023 The Gospel of John Week 15 –

Sunday – April 23, 2023

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 23, 2023

John 4:3-6
He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob’s well was there.

One of the wonderful things about the good news Jesus brings is that it meets the basic need all people have. Since all people are sinners who need to be reconciled to the holy God, the same gospel applies to all: Jesus saves sinners who trust in Him. John 3 gives the account of Jesus’ interview with the Pharisee, Nicodemus. As a religious leader and a moral man, he was no doubt shocked by Jesus telling Nicodemus his religion was not sufficient. He needed the new birth. John 4 gives the account of Jesus’ encounter with the immoral Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. Jesus skillfully shows her that she needs the living water that He can give. It’s the same basic message with a different metaphor.

Nicodemus and the unnamed Samaritan woman are as different as they could be. He was a Jewish man; she was a Samaritan woman. He was educated and orthodox in the Jewish faith; she was uneducated and unorthodox. He was an influential leader; she was a nobody. He was upper middle class; she was lower class. He was morally upright; she was immoral. He sought out Jesus because he recognized His merits; she had no idea who the stranger was who sought her out. He came to Jesus at night; Jesus and the woman met at noon. Nicodemus responded slowly and rationally; she responded quickly and emotionally. But Jesus loved both of them. He came to seek and to save all types of people.

It wasn’t that the woman at the well said, “Sir, you look like a Jewish rabbi. I’m hungry to know your God. Can you tell me how to do that?” She was just going about her daily chores, minding her own business, when this stranger asked her for a drink and then steered the conversation into spiritual matters. She wasn’t seeking to know God. Her guilt over her current live-in boyfriend and her five marriages, which had probably ended because of her multiple adulteries, caused her to keep her distance from God. The only explanation for this story is that Jesus was seeking a sinner who wasn’t even seeking Him.

What an amazing thing that our Lord found it necessary to pass through Samaria. Why was this? The easy answer was because God had purposed to save these Samaritans from their sins. But there is yet another reason, a very simple one: These Samaritans would not come to Jesus, Jesus had to go to them. I think there is sometimes the presumption that the unbelievers should come to us, but it is a presumption on our part, and a bad one. “Go” is an important word in the great commission, and Jesus has set the example for us. If the church is saying, “Come” to unbelievers, let us remember that our Lord says, “Go and make disciples” (Matt 28:19) to the church.

Sunday April 16, 2023 The Gospel of John Week 14 – John 3:31-36 “The Heavenly Authority of Jesus”

Sunday – April 16, 2023

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 16, 2023

John 3:32-34
What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33 “He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true.”

We hear stories these days of people who supposedly went to heaven, came back, and wrote a book about it. A lot of what they write contradicts what the Bible says about heaven, but people buy their books and receive it as true because the authors claim to have eyewitness testimony. It’s interesting that none of the people in the Bible who were raised from the dead wrote books or set up speaking tours to tell everyone what they saw up there! The apostle Paul had a vision of heaven (some think it may have been when he was stoned and left for dead), but he only spoke about it hesitantly 14 years after it happened (2 Cor. 12:1-10).

But John’s point in our text is that Jesus can testify truthfully about heaven because He is telling us what He has seen and heard. He wasn’t speculating or philosophizing about heaven. He was speaking the very words of God, telling us what the Father is like and how we can have eternal life. His witness is reliable and certain. This isn’t the only time that John asserts this. In John 7:16, Jesus said, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.” In John 8:28, He said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.” It may sound irreverent, but there is an common phrase that says: “I got this right from the horse’s mouth.” That is what John is saying about Jesus and His words.

Jesus had a large popular following because He healed people and they found His teaching fascinating. They liked the fact that He spoke with authority, not like the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 7:29). But, the same fickle crowd that shouted “Hosanna” on Palm Sunday on Friday shouted, “Crucify Him!” Their views about Jesus changed with the popular tide of opinion. Yet in spite of the authority of Jesus’ own testimony, the general response to Jesus when He came to this earth was rejection. John 3:19, “Men loved darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” But, by God’s grace alone, there have always been some who have responded by believing.

The point for us is: the reason we should put our trust in Jesus is because we have come to the firm conclusion, based on the apostolic witness, that God is true and that Jesus spoke the words of God. He is who He claimed to be. He is the Christ, the Son of God, sent from heaven to redeem us from our sins. By setting your seal to this, John means that you fix in your mind and heart that Jesus is the promised Redeemer, your personal Savior and Lord. Even if all others forsake Him, you will be faithful even unto death.